1928–2015, American poet, b. Detroit, grad. Wayne State Univ. (B.A., 1950; A.M., 1954), Univ. of Iowa (M.F.A., 1957). The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he held a variety of industrial jobs as a young man, and his work experiences shaped the subjects and tone of many of his free-verse poems. In language resembling everyday speech, Levine described the lives and labors of America's urban working class. Other subjects include his own life and immigrant roots and, arising out of his strong antifascism, Spanish anarchism and the Spanish civil war, as in The Names of the Lost
(1976). From his first collection, On the Edge
(1961), to his last, the posthumous The Last Shift
(2016), he produced more than 20 volumes of poetry. He was awarded the National Book Award twice, for Ashes
(1979) and What Work Is
(1991), and won the Pulitzer Prize for The Simple Truth
(1994). Levine also edited and translated the work of other poets. U.S. poet laureate
from 2011 to 2012, he was on the faculty of California State Univ., Fresno from 1958 to 1992, and taught at a number of other universities.
See his essay collection, The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography (1994), Don't Ask (interviews, 1982), So Ask: Essays, Conversations, and Interviews (2002), and My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry (2016), essays, speeches, and journal entries; studies by C. Buckley (1991) and M. L'Esperance and T. Q. Morin, ed. (2013).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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